Watching the EU press conference in Poland this afternoon, you could have been forgiven for thinking that you were in June 2009.  The French Presidency‘s press briefer Brice Lalonde outlined an ambitious ‘shared vision’ for where global climate policy ‘must go’.

Game Theory (Source:

Game Theory (Source:



For the EU, climate policy is not just a figure or a number but a wider framework of cooperation, uniting the world in the transition to a global low-carbon society.  Mr Lalonde reaffirmed the EU’s preference for 80% cuts by 2050.  Not only must this action be global but is must also involve major top-down investment at a significant scale.  Such investment must be made now and by all. 

On one hand, yes, this is moving the debate forward, talking about the solutions and goals of the entire climate policy project.  However, on the other, the vision outlined this afternoon is an EU vision.  International cooperation, large-scale investment: these are all characteristics of the two-level game theory on which the EU project is itself based–that cooperation at a higher level can benefit all in the long term, offsetting the huge investment required immediately.  Essentially, it is a government-focused approach.

While the EU and any scholar of basic game theory are in agreement that this maximises gains, many of the negotiating parties still won’t budge.  The initial investment is seen by the global South as the job of the North, while many in the North favour less investment-intensive market mechanisms.  

In an effort to begin forging at least some of the necessary cooperation, Lalonde referred to combining emission reductions with sustainable development, as well as basing the reductions themselves on the Article 3.1 principles of responsibility and capability.  However, as is the case in almost all climate negotiations, this attempt to bring one group on board will almost certainly push another away; yesterday the USA delegation reaffirmed the need for India and China to take on significant binding targets for post-2012.

Unfortunately, then, while setting aside differences and making hefty compromises has worked to build the EU, such sentiments are less forthcoming for international climate policy.

From the outside, the EU appears to have jumped ahead–from talking about how to agree on policy to simply talking about the policy they want.  However, they have effectively done little to reposition themselves on the issue of how to achieve the elusive ‘cooperation’ and instead have put forward something of a ‘vision for a shared vision’.

For an introduction to game theory and climate change see Greg Mankiw’s blog

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